What we know about the four children wanted in the Colombian Amazon

A baby bottle, scissors, footprints and a tangle of branches found this week in the Colombian jungle provide evidence that four children who went missing after the small plane they were traveling in crashed on May 1 at least one of them survived.

But the mystery that goes beyond Colombia and well beyond the suspense continues as the days go by, four children aged 13, 9, 4 and an 11-month-old remain untraceable.

Here’s what we know about the tragedy that killed at least three people, including the children’s mother.

– What happened on May 1st?

Photo released by the Colombian military of a soldier and his sniffer dog during a search in Solano, May 17, 2023, to find four missing children in the jungle after the crash of a small plane in which they were traveling (Colombian Army/AFP) – Handout)

On the morning of May 1, a Cessna 206 from Avianline Charters took off from Arracuara (south) for San José del Guaviare, one of the main cities in the Colombian Amazon. On board were the pilot and six members of the Utoto indigenous community, an indigenous chief and a mother with her four children.

Minutes after taking off for a 350-kilometer flight over the jungle, the pilot reports engine trouble and the plane disappears from radar.

The search made did not find the aircraft crushed to the ground with its nose in the middle of dense vegetation until Monday, 15 May. The pilot’s body has been found inside the plane. It was not until the next day that the armed forces coordinating the search announced the discovery of the mother and native chief. The only immediate traces of the children are a sniffer dog and a bottle containing recently chewed fruit.

– What clues were found?

Photo of a baby bottle found by the Colombian army in the jungle of Solano, near the crash site of a small plane in the Colombian jungle on May 17, 2023 (Colombian Army / AFP - Handout)
Photo of a baby bottle found by the Colombian army in the jungle of Solano, near the crash site of a small plane in the Colombian jungle on May 17, 2023 (Colombian Army / AFP – Handout)

Then there will be shoes and clothes. On Wednesday, 17 May, the soldiers discovered a “makeshift shelter made of sticks and branches”, then a dog, scissors and a piece of hair band.

A fresh footprint was found on Thursday. Air Force helicopters fly over the area, playing an audio message in the Utoto language from the children’s grandmother telling them they are wanted and asking them to remain there for rescue.

According to the grandfather, they are “used to the woods” and may hide in fear after an accident. “Why do babies leave behind objects” that might be useful for their survival: “scissors are a weapon or can be used to cut a sheet”, he wondered on Friday.

Why are you complicating the matter?

“A joy for the country,” President Petro tweeted on Wednesday, pressing on to announce the rescue of the children. The information goes around the world but the President himself refutes it in a new message the next day: “I have decided to delete the tweet as the information provided by the ICBF could not be verified. I am sorry for what happened”. .

He blames the public body responsible for ensuring the rights of children, which said in a press release on Wednesday that it had “received information” that the four children had been “found alive and in good health”.

However, the ICBF reported that “military forces are yet to establish official contact due to difficult weather and terrain conditions”.

– Where is the research?

Colombia: The search continues (AFP)
Colombia: The search continues (AFP)

On Friday, the Army announced that it increased the number of teams on the ground to pass from 100 to 150. It is supported by indigenous natives who know the jungle is difficult to access.

“There is no village in this area and even the natives do not know it”, Grandpa explained. The forests and rivers of the south of the country are also a corridor for guerrillas, the main dissident of the former FARC.

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